The Badenweiler Waltz
Author: G. W. Kroeker
Recently this Germany-based American author got in touch with me regarding a review for this particular book of his and I agreed. While the book is winging its way to me, I'm happy to bring you a teaser of sorts. A guest post by the author is also forthcoming.
There are fools who dance, and fools who watch the dance.
If I must be a fool, let me be a dancing fool.
(This is the epigram before the first chapter.)
As she stood at the open window of her second-floor room in the Schwarzwälder Hof, Elizabeth Kurz knew that she should be feeling something akin to joy, but the reality came only as a small satisfaction that she was actually here. She should have been caught up by what was no doubt a lovely view of the small, cobble-stone courtyard below, sun-splashed and awash as it was with red and white roses and geraniums; her journey, however, had exhausted her, and she managed to take in only the general sense of the quaint and foreign charm of the scene before her. She knew she had been transported farther than simple miles could calculate, across barriers far more formidable than a continent or an ocean, the true enormity of which had yet to sink in, as had the emotional and psychological distances that separated this small, verdant spa town in Germany’s southern Black Forest from the seared summer lawn and the squat, flat-roofed house in southern California she had once called home, now but a sad repository for old lesson plans, discarded seating charts, and shelf upon shelf of abandoned books. Most importantly, though, she knew that she had gone against her every instinct and inclination, had risen above her every fear and anxiety—surely some satisfaction could be taken in that — opening herself to the only true adventure in her life, all the while steeling herself for what would probably bring about only disappointment. And finally, unspoken, folded neatly and carefully tucked beneath it all, lay the fear that, at the end of the day, her small and singular act of bravery would amount to nothing more than a foolish gesture, to be snickered at by the likes of Stephen Crane or Anton Chekhov from that vast shadow land of the dead.
My greatest debt of gratitude goes to my deceased wife, Monika Hasse-Kroeker, who might well be designated a co-author of this novel, for she was directly involved from its very inception. We began discussing it when the concept was little more than a distant mirage, and she helped me focus and develop that vague idea, draw out its thematic strands, and give form to the novel’s plot, structure, and narrative line. She read every draft , of which there were many, and made extensive comments with unflagging enthusiasm and encouragement, and she actually finished what we then thought was the final draft in hospital in January of 2005. I could not have had a better wife, lover, companion, cohort, fellow pilgrim and cheerleader, and her devastating death in July 2005, sidetracked all efforts to find an agent or publisher for The Badenweiler Waltz.
It took some time to pull myself up out of the darkness that followed her death and come to terms with the fact that she was no longer with me, at least not in the way that she once had been, but sometime in 2006, I began to think about the novel anew, and wondered if perhaps my own experience of Monika’s illness and death, the process of grieving I had gone though, might not have given me new insights into its story. Once again I worked through the manuscript, clarifying, enhancing, cutting, tightening and focusing in light of fresh ways of seeing. I believe the novel is stronger for that final rewrite.
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